Middle Eastern influence driving British manufacturing



Turning the clock back four years to early 2009, Contactum, a manufacturer of electrical wiring accessories and circuit protection products, founded in 1936, had hit financial rock bottom and had entered administration with little hope for the future.

However, following a takeover of the company assets by the Saudi based Alfanar group, a new four-man management team at Contactum, headed-up by chairman David Goodberry and recently appointed managing director Neil Clydesdale (formerly of MK Electric and Weidmuller) is changing the whole company ethos. In total the four board members, that also include development director, Nathan Hudson and UK sales director Neil Rainbow, have over 100 years senior management experience in the electrical industry working for leading brands.

Utilising their collective experience, the new team quickly diagnosed the fundamental issues that had caused the trading difficulties and have made good progress so far in addressing them as well as developing a clear vision for the business, with Contactum now making huge strides to become an established name in the market working with a number of blue chip companies.

Alfanar’s product range covers British Standard wiring accessories, load centers, low voltage switchgear, medium voltage switchgear, transformers, package sub-stations, single-core wires, low, medium, and high voltage cables, and various other products.

With Alfanar being the Saudi market leader in many product categories, including wiring accessories, managing director Abdul Salam saw the opportunity to acquire the assets of Contactum as a perfect fit - particularly as the company was intent on establishing a more international presence and British designed and manufactured product is still held in very high regard in the Middle East.

Unlike many of their competitors, Contactum are still manufacturing in the UK – in Cricklewood, not too far from the famous Wembley Stadium landmark on the outskirts of London - supported by a loyal and dedicated workforce that has grown by 20% since the end of last year to well over 100 employees in order to support annual sales growth rates in excess of 25%.

If the doomsayers and the sceptics are to be believed, then Britain is a country that simply ‘doesn’t make anything anymore’ – a country living on past imperialistic glory that has seen its manufacturing industry shipped off to the far corners of the globe. This is a stereotype that Clydesdale is keen to quash, stating, “Visitors are always amazed that we are manufacturing in London. Anyone who thinks that British manufacturing is dead should think again! Our factory is the best marketing tool we have!”

Commenting on the takeover, Goodberry said, “What we’ve tried to do is take the principles of Alfanar to run Contactum as a British business. We’ve got British people running the business with a set of principles that emanate from Saudi Arabia that’s all about quality, looking after people and doing the right thing.

“From when we started we’ve virtually doubled our business and we see ourselves doubling again within five years. We’ve proved that we can do cable, we’re proving that we can sell enclosures and 3-phase switchgear, and there’s maybe even more that we can take on. In addition, we will carry on developing our wiring accessories and single-phase switchgear business with our distribution partners and suppliers as well as making further strategic portfolio additions in these areas.”

Clydesdale concluded: “While we have come a long way, I still believe there is much more we can achieve. Alfanar has shown a lot of faith in the company and we have a workforce that is strongly motivated by that. Combining the traditions and heritage of a British manufacturing business with a forward thinking management team and underpinned by support from a multi-billion dollar Saudi business is proving to be a winning formula.

“We have a very clear long term vision and, while we are conscious of the present, the overall focus and commitment is on making the right decisions and investment to establish a long term sustainable business that will be an enduring legacy to the vision of Alfanar.”